Thursday, May 3, 2007

Please write on community forum sites

I am now on holiday out of the country as you read this and will be making a few stops in different places up to mid-June. I will be on the internet to update this site as I can although the bulk of my time will be spent where the internet is not well developed. My posts will resume "full steam ahead" on my return.

I would ask all interested readers of this site to start posting their own comments on the community forums listed on the right sidebar. You can post your messages directly to these sites without my intervention and they should get some good community debate going on the general/ward vote issue. They can also be used for advertising yard sales, etc. or for any other matter of interest to the community.

What is Council's Communication Plan?

To The Mayor and Council
c/o: Oshawa City Clerk

cc: Hon. J. Gerretson
Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Regional Media

Re: Council adoption of following motion:

“That Report ABCS-07-95, ‘Request for Partnership Grant—VOTES’ dated March 30, 2007 from the Director of Finance be received for information given that the public meeting to receive input into the draft by-law to provide for the election of City Council members by general vote has been held.”

This is a ludicrous response to a request that had nothing to do with whether a public input meeting has been held or not…The Partnership Grants Request is recognition that information has to be disseminated to the public in regard to this major electoral change even though the bylaw has already been passed. The public cannot be kept in the dark about this important issue and how they should now deal with the changes and with their municipal council. Packaged with this is why the changes were necessary and what benefits are to accrue.

Information would have been provided by any responsible administration before a plebiscite question was asked of the public. By the mayor’s own admission in the recorded April 30, 2007 council meeting, city council felt that they had no responsibility to communicate any details of the plebiscite question. He said it was not their job. It was the job of private citizens to use their own funds to finance the dissemination of this required information. So now he suggests taxpayers should take this additional financial burden on themselves to do the job that council should be doing…Amazing!

The provincial government is studying electoral changes re the composition of the provincial assembly and is going to ask the people their opinion on the provincial ballot. Perhaps the Premier should take a page out of Oshawa’s strategy book and Mayor Gray’s comments re whose responsibility it is to inform the public on plebiscite questions and leave it up to interested and concerned individual of the Ontario public to pick up the tab….certainly that would save the Provincial Treasury a few million dollars.

Most responsible people would want to know why the plebiscite was being asked, what were the shortcomings of ward elections since none had ever been publicly expressed, and what benefits are expected to accrue to Oshawa from a change to the general vote in this city of 165,000 to provide us with local and regional councillors whose constituency is almost twice the size of our provincial and federal members of parliament.

While the information should have been provided and public debate encouraged prior to the vote, the need for information does not end now that city council has passed the bylaw to implement the general vote…but at the same time keep the wards. This sounds unusual to keep wards and not use them, so perhaps this is also a detail the public has the right to know.

The information the public requires now is not to prepare them for a plebiscite question but in fact to prepare them with how to work within a new administrative structure, how political responsibility has changed, and how elections have changed and what will be the impact of the changes into the future. A basic question is whom they should call if they have a problem in their community. Which politician is responsible for representing their community on council?

Because of the need for the public to know this information even after the bylaw has passed, I am requesting city council to prepare a highly professional brochure up to Oshawa’s normal standard with high quality paper, colour photographs and professional design for distribution to all residents in Oshawa. The typewritten letter printed black and white on letter head paper that you distributed to inform of the time and place of the public meeting on this issue held at Sikorski Hall is not good enough. That poor quality of communication does not get any attention from the public.

I am therefore requesting that city council adopt a professional and polished communication strategy regarding the public of this major change in Oshawa politics and provide me a copy of that plan.

If any of my assistance is needed either in preparing the plan or helping design the message to be circulated, I will gladly volunteer my time and talents.

If you refuse to provide the details of a communication plan and continue to stifle the dissemination of public information about this issue, I will again be applying for a city partnership grant to do the job that you must do.

As you know democracy requires an informed public…and democracy requires politicians that respect the public ENOUGH to provide necessary information to them.

I await your response to this request.

Bill Longworth,

May 3, 2007

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

More signs that democracy is dead in Oshawa

Oshawa City Council passed their self-serving bylaw to bring in the general vote for the election of Oshawa City Council Monday night.

They arranged the affair once again to keep it a secret.

They excluded interested citizens from addressing council on the bylaw because they still want to keep it a "non-issue" with the public. They want to keep it as quiet as possible. They still want to stifle public comment and debate.

They invited the public to provide written submissions but none of these were considered in Council's deliberations. Some citizens took the time and effort to write...but their efforts were in vain. Once again, council's invitation to provide input was only a joke....a sham--the same as the rest of the process!

By their actions, council shows great disrespect and disregard for the public.

Only one citizen, VOTES Chair, Bill Longworth, was able to comment to council on the bylaw, and that was an accident of timing.

VOTES had previously applied for a city funding request for $25,000 to prepare and distribute an information brochure on the ward issue for distribution to all Oshawa households.

It came back to council because Councillors Henry, Sholdra, and Parkes were unable to understand a "plebiscite-like" question at council that required them to vote "NO" to provide the funds and "YES" to deny them.

Misunderstanding the question, like many voters misunderstood the similar plebiscite question, they voted "NO" thinking they were denying the funds but from the convoluted way the question was worded were actually providing VOTES the funds.

With Oshawa City Council's definition of democracy, they can make up the rules as they go along. And so when they realized they had made an error, they simply referred the whole thing back to committee so the question could once again come back to council to give them another kick at the cat to "get it right."

This was the April 30th meeting---the same meeting where Council were voting to introduce the general vote...and that is why the VOTES chair was the only citizen allowed to speak.

The mayor tried to confine the VOTES Chair's remarks to the funding question but Bill Longworth refused to allow the mayor to define how his presentation for the funds grant was to be made. Had he wanted the mayor to write his presentation...he would have asked him!

And now Councillor's Henry, Sholdra, and Parkes are hitching their horse to the plebiscite result...which came from the very kind of question they themselves did not understand and got confused by...amazing!

I guess Councillor's Henry, Sholdra, and Parkes must feel the public is far more astute, wise, and intelligent than they are and thus could not make the same kind of error that they did.

Also amazing, as part of his summary comments to the general vote bylaw, the Mayor even had the audacity to suggest that city council had no responsibility to provide citizens with information about the change before they voted. Can you imagine? The mayor says they didn't feel a responsibility to the citizens to provide information they required to make an informed judgement...unbelievable!

This proves beyond a doubt that council wanted to slip the whole thing in below the public radar.

The Mayor said it was up to private taxpayers to use their own finances as well as their time and effort to communicate the details to the public...amazing!

The Provincial Government is planning to ask the people about a new provincial voting procedure in Ontario...Perhaps the Premier should take the Mayor's advice and provide no information and promote no public discourse or discussion. According to the Mayor, this would not be Provincial responsibility....Can you imagine? Dumb!

Responsible governments that want to ask a serious question to get a serious reading of public opinion are also serious in providing as much information and promoting as much public discussion and dialogue as they can. If they don't want to provide information, they shouldn't ask the question.

The process followed by Oshawa City Council was a "sham" designed to "trick" and "confuse" the public. The process they followed made a mockery of democracy which absolutely requires an informed public.

Fortunately, Monday night's vote to bring in the general vote is not the end of the process.

Council's adoption of the general vote bylaw will not stifle the VOTES group which has started to accelerate its communication efforts with the introduction of 37 internet "community forums." All of these sites can be accessed by the public both from as well as directly over the internet.

You can find these forums by logging into and searching "Oshawa." There you will find a forum focussed to your community or your particular interest that can be used freely for the discussion and dissemination of any and all items of interest to you or your community. You could even inform your neighbours of a yard sale, a social function...or your opinions about any political issue---including council's change to the general vote if that is the issue that turns your crank.

We are also looking at other remedies to counteract Oshawa Council's anti-democratic moves and feel the whole issue still has significant potential to explode in the face of council in ways that they had not considered.

The will to insure that there is no erosion in the democratic ideals, values and principles is basic and strong in thinking and free people, and we shall continue to honour, cherish, and work to preserve the integrity of these beliefs and values that have made our country the greatest in the world.

The result of the council vote Monday night is what we expected, and we want to insure all that we have always felt that the struggle and the fight is just beginning.

We are confident justice, and freedom, and "right" will prevail in the end.

Keep the faith.

It is time for renewal

Citizen Letters reprinted with permission

From: address removed for privacy
Subject: Fw: Council Meeting - Ward System
Date: Tue, 1 May 2007 10:27:05 -0400

Subject: Fw: Council Meeting - Ward System

I am not sure you received this e-mail at your council meeting last night as there were no minutes from the April 19th Special meeting for everyone to read.

It was mentioned that there were two meetings held on this question prior to the election. When were they and were they printed in our Oshawa "paper" in a prominent spot?

The meeting being a "Charade" and a "Mockery" were very appropriate terms used and express my feelings as I took the time out to come and speak, when in fact you had no intention of even using the comments to come to some other resolution that would meet all the citizens half-way on this issue. The point was made that very few people showed up, not the "thousands" you expected. Well maybe those thousands had previouosly attended special meetings where their voices only went into the wind and council were just placating them. They were the smart ones and went about important things in their life and not foolish like me. To add even more insult you phone me and ask me to e-mail, write or even attend the council meeting to again be made a fool of.

Your concern for the people who voted "yes" not coming out to vote in another election if their vote was not followed should also include those who have expressed their opinions in opposition to this change. We also may or maynot be voting next time around so that voter number may very well drop. After this "Charade" of asking my opinion why should I believe anthing ANY council member says?

Josie P

From: Address removed for privacy
Sent: Monday, April 30, 2007 12:33 PM
Subject: Council Meeting - Ward System

Mayor and Councillors

Myself and my family are not in favor of a Genreal Vote.

Our concerns are mostly that there was not very much information given to this VERY IMPORTANT issue prior to the elections. All the residents should have been given both the pros and cons of each system well in advance of the election, and not just in our local "paper". No candidate in our area ever mentioned this topic, asking our opinion, and our councillors elected have not asked us since. I know others who have discussed this with their constituents to get their feedback.

If this question was better known by all the citizens of Oshawa, I'm sure the voter turnout would have been a lot higher.

Such an important decision should not be made when it is a very well known fact that voter turnout is always in the 25% range. It would be even slightly more acceptible if EVERY ONE of the voters said yes to the question as then you might be able to say it was a "quorum". The 60% does not account for at least half of the population of Oshawa, it basically accounts for all the friends and family of the Councillors who wanted this issue brought forward in the first place.

The vote to have a Ward system was well disussed for many years prior to the decision. I did not hear of any complaints about it so why was it even brought up in the first place?

I truly hope that all of the councillors take their constituents interests to heart this time and vote on their behalf as they were elected to do.

Thank you for reading this letter.

Sincerely yours,
Josie P

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Final Say! VOTES Presentation at April 30, 2007 Council Meeting Which Adopted the "General Vote" Bylaw

The following presentation was delivered by VOTES Chair, Bill Longworth, to Oshawa City Council at their April 30, 2007 meeting in which they passed their bylaw to revert to the general vote

Mayor and Members of Council

You are about to pass a bylaw tonight to erode democracy in Oshawa

And your action is going to explode in directions you never anticipated…even including a fight to keep annexed Old East Whitby Township in Oshawa…They were given guaranteed representation on Oshawa City Council and had their own ward councillor even when Oshawa had the general vote

Their needs are distinct…their voice is strong…and they demand a voice at the table.

Perhaps there is another jurisdiction within Durham Region that will be more representative of their needs

Your moves to the general vote have been below the radar of most people up to this time

Human nature being what it is…most people will not really stand up to be heard until the crisis is upon them…and that crisis is now for some and will be focused for all at the next election when people will be frustrated by the huge, undemocratic, unmanageable, and impossible ballot.

It’s only at then that people will come to realize that--

Your bylaw will take away their guaranteed neighborhood representation

Your bylaw will take away the real vote from everyone including the ethnic communities that some of you belong to

Your bylaw will take away the distinctive voice of Oshawa’s rural communities

Your bylaw will disenfranchise many areas of Oshawa so that most parts of Oshawa will not have a voice on council

Your bylaw will ensure that only the rich areas of Oshawa will have a voice on council

Your bylaw will ensure that only the rich will be able to afford to campaign city-wide for a council seat

Your bylaw will ensure the existence of only one demographic voice on council...the voice of the rich, the white, the non-ethnic

Your bylaw will reduce political accountability to the people of Oshawa

Your bylaw will take away the real vote that gives a real role to the people in determining their political leadership

Your bylaw will guarantee your seat on council until your death or resignation

Your bylaw by all of these things will reduce democracy in Oshawa

Because you can do something, does not make it right

You can walk past a blind person trying to cross the street and not help…you can do this---but it does not make it right

You can see a child in distress and not give a thought about helping…you can do this…but it does not make it right

You can see all kinds of things happening in society and just walk past and do nothing about them…you can do this…but it does not make it right.

These are not actions that we call Canadian

You can change the system of electing council to reduce democracy…you can do this…but it does not make it right

You’ve given no reasons for the change…you’ve given no reasons for asking the plebiscite question in the first place…you’ve given no benefits the new system will bring to Oshawa…you’ve given us none of the information we have the right to know

You’ve given none of this information…because there are no viable answers to these questions.

If your system was better, wouldn’t it be widely used in Canada?

Changes in Ontario’s Municipal Act allow you to reduce political accountability, disenfranchise many sections of the city, make it virtually impossible for ordinary people to raise the funds for a city wide election campaign, and reduce the power of the vote to be ineffective in choosing political leaders.

You can do all of these things with your bylaw tonight…but that does not make it right

The Municipal Act now allows you to reduce democracy in Oshawa…but that is obviously not right for Canada or Oshawa

In talking to Municipal Affairs officials, irresponsible actions like yours were unanticipated by drafters of the legislation.

Some things you can do are just not morally or ethically right

And what you are doing by passing the bylaw is not morally or ethically right

It is political irresponsibility

It is un-Canadian

It is introducing the kind of political system that many peoples from around the world came to Canada and to Oshawa to escape

Council…if you pass this bylaw tonight…you are being very un-Canadian

You are demonstrating your belief publicly that the political system should serve the politicians…not the people or the city

You’ve followed a system that was a sham from the very beginning…you knew what you wanted to do and put a system in place to do it.

The plebiscite question confused the people…just like 36% of you were confused by the same kind of question for the VOTES partnership grant…a backwards and convoluted question confused you…and it confused the public.

When so many of you get the question wrong, you can’t say that the same kind of confusing question is a fair measure of public opinion

In your case, you are having another vote tonight to see if you can get it right…I think the people of Oshawa deserve the same opportunity

You held a public meeting to get input regarding the general vote bylaw…it didn’t matter what was said at that meeting…because it was a sham.

The whole process was a sham…Alderman Pidwerbecki told me in January that the whole thing was a done deal

We shall insure that people remember in the next election

Members of Council…It’s your political career at stake…don’t let Councillor Pidwerbecki lead you down the garden path to your political destruction.

In a general vote election, he’ll be your competitor for the same city wide votes

…and VOTES and its call for Justice, Democracy and Accountability will be your worst enemy then and throughout this entire term of council where we’ll be chipping away at your support.

We’ll be joined by all of your fellow councillors who will be your competitors for the same city wide vote.

All of your council colleagues today will be your enemies tomorrow with the passage of the general vote bylaw working to drag you down as you scramble to stay on the city council lifeboat

The VOTES party will run a vibrant city wide campaign to remove self-serving politicians from city hall

We will restore ward voting as our first act of council

You can avoid our campaign against you by voting against the general vote bylaw tonight.

It’s your political career at stake

While the people of Oshawa have not yet moved on this issue…I am confident they will during the next election.